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Friday, March 6, 2009

stop interrupting

If you are in an interview, phone interview or in-person, and your interviewer is speaking, DO NOT CUT HER OFF. If you interrupt me, I will notice it and I will be annoyed. If you do it more than once, there's a good chance it will end your chances. And if you do it chronically, it will definitely end your chances, as it did with someone today.

Seriously. Stop interrupting. It's rude. And if I'm speaking, I'm trying to convey information to you for a reason, and you should probably listen to it.

Of course, if you do this, chances are that you don't know you're doing it. So pay attention.


George A Guajardo said...

I detect a spot of frustration. =)

I must admit this happened to me during a phone interview. I am usually pretty good about this, but the person interviewing used some wired and unexpected pauses. When I rushed to fill in the gap, she would do the same and we would stop at the same time. It was frustrating for me as I am sure it was frustrating for her.

Of course, communication chemistry with the interviewer is seldom a KSAO for jobs, so this is probably not an effective screen out measure. The company that skipped on me as a result of this interviewer's recommendation lost a fantastic opportunity... one of their competitors did NOT make that mistake.

Ask a Manager said...

George, I know the sort of thing you're talking about and that does sound like conversational chemistry, which I agree is irrelevant to the job (in most cases). I'm talking more about candidates who speak while words are coming out of my mouth; I haven't paused, I'm talking, and they decide they're heard enough to be able to respond and so they start talking over me.

I consider it a deal-breaker if it's chronic because it's either arrogant or careless. It sort of says, "I've decided I don't need to hear any more, thank you." And if they're doing it in an interview, when they're probably on their best behavior...

Charles said...


very good point. It is RUDE!

Can I ask how you handled it?

What should a job candidate do if the interviewer is interrupting him/her?

When I am training, if people are interrupting (or even worse carrying on side conversations, texting, etc.) I will often simply stop talking and let them finish and then pick up the rest of my sentence as if they never even said anything. After a few times of this they get the message that they are being disruptive and usually stop.

However, when interviewing I don't want to be rude back. But I would like to be able to finish giving all of my answer to the question.

Any suggestions?

Laurie said...

I'm a chronic interrupter and I've learned to take a deep breath before I talk. It gives me a second to rethink what I'm about to say.

Now that being said, sometimes I forget to take a deep breath because WHAT I HAVE TO TELL YOU IS REALLY IMPORTANT RIGHT NOW.

Not really. I'm just socially awkward, sometimes. Sorry.

Lewis, AKA SeattleInterviewCoach.Com said...

Hard habit to break, but definitely worth doing! Great post!

Social Scientist said...

I will often simply stop talking and let them finish and then pick up the rest of my sentence as if they never even said anything.

I do the same.

In a different context, I find that sometimes a person gives me a page they need me to read. Then they talk while I'm reading. I put my finger at the place they interrupted me, look at the speaker, wait for the interruption to end, then return my gaze to where my fingertip points.

Many people who interrupt, however, are too wrapped up in their own thoughts to notice others are signaling, "This doesn't work -- so quit it."

Meanwhile I'd like to see data on the frequency with which female interviewers versus male interviewers receive interruptions.

Ask a Manager said...

@ Charles: Personally, I just make note of it and factor it into my thinking/decision about the candidate. I don't tend to point it out, since the person isn't an employee (in which case I'd want to coach them); rather, I just consider it useful info about the candidate.

If it's the other way around -- if the interviewer is interrupting the candidate -- to some extent you've got to defer to the interviewer. (However, if this person is being rude and they would be your boss, obviously factor that into your thinking.) I do think you can go back to what you wanted to say ("One other thing I'd like to add to what I was saying earlier is..."), but I'd only do that once or twice. Ultimately, I do think the interviewer controls the pacing.

@ Laurie: I struggle with that myself! So I'm sympathetic. Just not so much in an interview, where it can come across differently.

@ Lewis: Thank you!

@ Social Scientist: I'd love to see that male/female data too!

Katie said...

Maybe the person you were interviewing was just a little too excited about the position...? If the person is a strong candidate should they still be eliminated on the basis of interruption/bad conversational behavior? I occasionally find myself pondering this question during interviews.

Ask a Manager said...

Hey Katie. I guess I think that you can't do too much speculation during an interview ("maybe he's acting like this because ___ ..."), since ultimately you have to go on the information presented. Whenever something has concerned me about a candidate and I've excused it away, it's always ended up coming back as an issue, so I've stopped speculating on possible excuses.

That said, some managers/offices may not care too much about interrupters. But mine does, oh so very much! And I know it'll affect the person's relationships here, so for me, it's sometimes a deal-breaker.

Ask a Manager said...

Oh -- but one more thing: I do think it's possible to recover, if you're just super excited. If a candidate said to me, "I'm sorry, I know I interrupted you -- I'm just so excited about this job," I would be kind of charmed. That's a different kind of thing than arrogance or inconsideration.

jonathan said...

Just wondered if any long time HR people have noticed this increasing over the years?

The world is moving in such away that people are increasingly lazy and impatient at the same time

Quite often my kids will interrupt me because they have heard the first bit and just guess what I am going to say next - can't wait and so just interrupt.

jaded hr rep said...

I tend to be a fast talker, so I know I'm not putting in untintentional pauses. When candidates interrupt too much, I normally let them speak. I set expectations up front about the time we have and that I'm leaving time for questions at the end. If their tendency to interrupt (or go on and on) eats up their time for questions or other information, so be it (I'm more flexible on time with good candidates). Oops, guess the interviewee should learn to manage his/her time better next time.